We often hear from successful people that failure is an inevitable stepping stone on the way to accomplishing our goals.
But how many failures does it take to reach success?
Well, for the Rocket Chemical Company, now known as the WD-40 Company, the answer was 39.
In 1953, founder Norm Larsen’s three-man staff set out to create a water displacement formula to be used as a rust-prevention solvent and degreaser in the aerospace industry, according to the company’s website.
After 39 unsuccessful attempts, the San Diego-based business perfected the formula. The name of the product, WD-40, reflects its history: “Water Displacement perfected on the 40th try.”
While the uses of the water displacement agent have changed over time, the same formula is still sold today.
The very first use of WD-40 was with an aerospace contractor called Convair, which used it to prevent rust and corrosion on its Atlas Missile. In fact, the product worked so well that employees were sneaking some home with them, the website says.
Larsen took note of the product’s effectiveness and began to search for ways to expand the business. His solution: putting it into aerosol cans for at-home use.
By 1958, the product was on shelves in the San Diego area.
It took off over the next decade, expanding distribution to hardware and sporting goods stores. In 1961, it was used by victims of Hurricane Carla along the US Gulf Coast to recondition water-damaged vehicles and equipment. And in 1968, it was sent to soldiers in Vietnam to prevent moisture damage on firearms, according to the website.
Sales of the product continued to grow, and because of its ever-increasing success, the Rocket Chemical Company was officially renamed the WD-40 Company in 1969.
Larsen and his small staff prove that, if paired with a good idea, persistence through failure can bring great success.
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